In the beginning there was the river Waal, located between the what are often referred to as the two great rivers, the Rhine and the Maas. The region between consisted of a confusion of deltas sending out innumerable branches and inlets with ill-defined banks. Over the centuries flooding was nearly an annual event. As the waters subsided, the river deposited sand mixed with loam and clay inland from the river banks. In the course of time this resulted in an elevation, enriching the banks.

Although it is known that a village existed here during Roman times known as Herovina, the origin of Herwijnen (Heer-wyn-nen) is more likely linked to the establishment of a settlement by hunters dating from the 7th century. Gradually the hunters turned to animal husbandry. The inland land they found difficult to work due to the light clay particles which had built up over the centuries, but as pasture it was ideal. Thus cattle breeding became their primary focus.

As civilization progressed Herwijnen was located within the historic Nijmegen (Ny-megen) quarter of the Gelderland (Hel-der-lant/d) province. Arnhem being the capital city of the province, and Nijmegen being the capital town of that quarter. Located within the smaller district of Tielerwaard, it can be located on a modern map between the towns Zaltbommel and Gorinchem.

The countryside, if monotonous was at the same time immensely charming. The large number of waterways created a marvelous impression of variety in uniformity. This region of three rivers - separating the Dutch country from the territories of Flanders and Spanish Brabant being so low was subjected to frequent overflow from the near-by rivers.

The Manor

As western Europe developed it’s early history is fraught with disorder, bloodshed and cruelty which does not need to be gone into detail here. The main outcome of all this was the way in which society advanced into a system of feudalism. As early as the time of Charlemage (768-814) people fell into one of three classes: the nobility, who did the fighting; the clergy, who did the praying; and the others, the serfs, who did the work. Within the nobility there was also division: the great landlords parceled out their estates to local lords in exchange for support and protection. In this way society continued to move forward into the Middle Ages. In Gelderland, a land of minor squires, the men had a reputation of being unparalleled warriors.

Farmsteads were generally found in clusters near a stronghold, such a community was called a buurtschap, not large enough to even be consisted a village. Within such a domain one would find a number of men, geërfden, who were by privilege allowed by the superior lord to hold a portion of that lord’s land with rights of inheritance, sale and/or lease, as well as jointly owning certain common grounds, roads, waterways and the like. These men (or their wives, sisters or daughters, as their heirs), not only took part in the administration of the common grounds but also promoted mutual interests. These lessor lords in turn allowed villeins to occupy smaller portions of their estates, in return the serf agreed to till his section and to give the lord a tithe from the harvest. One lord would possess the manor and this lord would be the chairman of the geërfden meetings. The property in all hamlets and villages in the Tielerwaard became ‘daily manors’, a system which would be considered as ‘low manorial rights’. A term which reflects on the judicial powers of the local lord. They appeared only in the Nijmegen quarter and remained longest in the Tielerwaard.

It is generally believed that the family, Herwijnen, was originally a member of the Harcourt family in France and that they took their name from the village. In 1402 Bruijsten van Herwijnen received the right to tax the neighborhood of Herwijnen. By 1445 Lijsbeth, his second wife, was a widow. Their daughter, Adelisse, inherited Herwijnen. With her husband, Otto van Haeften, Knight, she received the tithing in 1415 and the tax on the mill in 1435 and 1440. From then until the end of the eighteenth century the Herwijnen manor belonged to the heirs of the Haeften family together with the villages of Haaften and Hellouw, though frequently passing through female lines.

Thanks to Aart Bijl’s book, the title of which translates “About Lords, Pastures and Castles, a history of Herwijnen from prehistoric times to present-day”, a great deal has been learned about the daily manor of Herwijnen and many of the events which effected the lives of the inhabitants. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, for example, we learn, that there were four castles situated at Herwijnen, and something of the lower lords who held them as fiefs.

In all likelihood the oldest of the four castles to be built at Herwijnen was the Wayenstein. Excavation has shown that the building material dates from the beginning of the 14th century. At this time Gijsbert van Herwijnen is known to have been an important person, becoming director of the Veluwe in 1318; and in all probability it was he who had this first castle built. This was the local residence of the Lords of Herwijnen in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The Haeften family about this time also acquired the Frissestein to which the manorial rights of Herwijnen were later attached. The Haeften’s continued to hold Wayenstein until 1557 when it was sold to MAARTEEN VAN ROSSUM. The Van Rossums sold the house in 1564 after which it changed hands a number of times until in 1630 it was purchased by ARNT JANSZ DE BYE, burgemeester, curator (member of the commission of supervision) of the university at Harderwijk and delegate to the States General. Arent de Bij married Margaretha Bicker (also known as Van Amstel), the daughter of Jacob Jacobsz Bicker and Anna Roelofs de Vrije. It was still in the hands of their heirs when the castle was destroyed in 1672, although another house was built to replace the original and the property continues to be mentioned in the manorial registers. The house that sat on this property in 1735 and in 1838 was a stately manor house.

The Frissestein was probably built by Johan van Herwijnen about the year 1386. Two years later Dirk van Herwijnen, Johan’s son, is pledged with this fief, together with a “half interest in a mill, half the tithe of the Wadersteeg at the Petersteeg, the old court residence at Herwijnen, the Graven land, the Meyskamp and the Katerskamp in the district of Herwijnen, the tithe at Avezaet in Luttelvelt (an area between Avezaeth and Erichem) and in Nuwelant.” After 1422 the manorial rights of Herwijnen came to all subsequent owners of the Frissestein, until the beginning of the 18th century when the Count van Lippe sells the manorial rights of Herwijnen to ADRIAAN BONT, who resides at the Engelenburg. Like the Wayenstein the French also destroyed this castle in 1672, nevertheless, the manorial rights of Herwijnen continued to be attached to the property. A few years later Lippe sells the fief Frissestein to the local clergyman, PETRUS BIERMAN. In 1723 Bierman also acquires the Engelenburg at which time the manorial rights of Herwijnen are once more associated with the Frissestein. The picures which remain of the Frissestein, one as early as 1680 and the other of 1735 still give the viewer an image of a ture castle.

In 1401 Arnt van Leijenburg Arntsz holds forty morgen land in the area of Herwijnen with a house, not long before that built, called the Drakenburg. Later descendants take for their surname “van Drakenburg” and continue to hold this fief until 1482 when it is sold. Just before the turn of the next century it is sold once more, this time to a Johan van Herwijnen.  Thus comes the fourth castle into the hands of the van Herwijnen family. By 1609 only the Drakenburg is still owned by a member of the van Herwijnen family.

It is interesting to note that in the 1660s MAARTEN ADRIAANS DE JONG was the curator and administrator of the estate for Agneta van Hemert. An ADRIAAN DE JONGH seems to also have had an interest in the property in 1705 (perhaps a lease) after it was sold to Dr. Johan van Eck, burgemeester of Zaltbommel and director of the Tielerwaard. However, in the meantime, the castle no longer stood there, or at least was in ruins, as it too had been destroyed by the French in 1672. All that remained was a round tower. There are also pictures available of Drakenburg in 1735 and in 1823.

It was also in this time that Johan van Herwijnen had the Engelenburg built. His nephew, Bruijsten van Herwijnen is pledged with the house and all that belongs to it in 1402 after the death of his mother, Adelisse van Herwijen.

During the Eighty Years War the castles at Herwijnen continue to be held in noble families, except the Engelenburg which was purchased in 1620 by the influential Amsterdam businessman and regent, PIETER DE GRAEFF. In 1643 the unmarried Pieter de Graeff transfers it to JACOB BICKER, the son of his sister. Besides being a prominent merchant and trader Bicker is also involved with the administration of the East-India Company. At his death in 1647 it passes to his brother and heir, Andries Bicker, one of the most influential men in the northern Netherlands. The dwelling continues in the hands of the Bickers or their heirs until in 1677 at which time Aleida Bicker transfers it to her son-in-law, Jacob Baron Petersen, a propionate Amsterdam banker. This castle is the only one of the four to survive the 1672 French seige. Of this castle 3 pictures are available. An undated picture, one picture of 1743 and another undated one. From the three available pictures, however, it appears to have been rebuilt a number of times.

Perhaps the following chart will be helpful in following the family Herwijnen and how the ownership of the various castles changed from time to time.

As previously implied the nobles did no work, they were there for protection. The lord of the daily manor assigned trusted men to actually take care of the day to day activities necessary to run the manor. This was accomplished by the appointment of a judicial committee, the schepenen; two managers, the buurmeesters; and a local police commissioner/mayor, the schout. Lastly the lord appointed a church warden; an administrator to care for the poor and to deal with the day to day financial busines of the church; and a sexton. Besides being able to pledge personal property, the lord could fine parties for lower crimes such as being involved in a physical altercation, thus the term ‘low manorial rights’. He also controlled the rents and tolls, the fishing rights, the wind rights and the operation of the mills.

From as early as the 13th century windmills have adorned the flat windy landscape, especially as grain mills and polder mills. On account of the changing wind direction the sails have to be set in the proper position. This is accomplished by rotating the hood by means of a tail and winch. A mill with such a mechanism is called a bovenkruier (smock mill), a genuine Dutch invention of about 1600. As a result the mill is able to press, grind, crush or saw for mass production of oil, grain, paper timber and the like. Depending on its size a wind mill's power can equal the muscular strength of 100 men. Until the end of the eighteenth century wind was not a free commodity. In the period when water and wind were the sole sources of energy (besides man and beast), the right to exploit a wind mill was originally reserved to the lord. He sold the right to a rich townsman or to the local authorities, who leased the mill to a miller. The holder of the wind rights compelled the inhabitants of his area to have their grain milled only in his mill. Even when there was a cheaper mill nearby heavy sanctions were imposed when one did not use their local mill. In the top of the mill transmission takes place by means of wooden rotating parts. At the bottom, there is room for storage and living quarters.

As discussed previous flooding causing much damage and inconvenience. Dikes were built in order to provide some protection to the population. Polder mills were installed to help to drain the water and the windmill became the picturesque symbols of the Dutch landscape. In spite of these efforts flooding remained a constant threat, as the dikes breached time and time again.

Along the dikes dijkhuizen (dike-houses) were built, as it was often the highest

place in the area. The farmhouses in the Betuwe and Tielerwaard were sometimes situated on elevated residential mounds, the huis-terpen. However, only a prosperous farmer could afford such an advantageous location for his home. The fertile soil along the river banks supported the growth of many kinds of grain as well as beans, peas, as well as sugar beets. The area inland was perfect for raising livestock both dairy cattle and sheep. Moreover, there was major breeding of horses and young cattle. In times of war, horses were in particularly high demand. Near the house each farmer also had his vegetable garden, and often a small orchard; most also kept pigs, hens and rabbits. Apart from serving as additional food, some extra money could be raised from the excess. While the men folk handled the heavy work, the women were busy taking care of the dairy stock and smaller farm animals. She made the butter aided by a dog or horse driven churn and in autumn when the pigs were slaughtered, it was the farmer's wife who processed the meat for winter. In addition, she tended the front garden and the vegetable garden. The time left was spent on household activities.

Flooding was not the only threat to peaceful existence. From time to time droughts and plagues caused as much misery. Wars too plunged the population into great poverty. The Arkel War (1401-1412) broke out when Jan van Arkel withdrew his loyalty from the Count of Holland. Local lords where quick to take sides. Asperen, Heukelum and Leijenburg were on the side of the Holland while Otto van Vuren supported the Arkels. How Herwijnen stood is not recorded. The Gelre Wars (late 1400s)coincide with the Burgundian occupation. In the western river territory the lords of Asperen, Herwijnen, Brakel and Nederhemert are known to have all been pro-Burgundian. In 1497 a troop from Holland captured Leerdam, Gellicum, Batenburg and Herwijnen. The Eighty Years War beginning in 1568 and the French invasion in 1672 will be dealt with in more detail later.

The first Dutch Reformed preacher in Herwijnen, Johannes Godefridus Coxius, is reported to have come in 1610. However, the earliest surviving church records at Herwijnen start with marriages in the year 1607 and continue through 1630, but these seem very incomplete; after a gap of fifteen years marriage records continue from 1645 in more consistent manner. Baptism records begin in the year 1655. Click here for a picture of the church as it stood in 1640. It is possible earlier records were destroyed in one of the several floods, quite possibly the one in 1809 or 1820 when it is documented that the church was badly damaged. It is apparent that our forefathers helped to organize the Reformed church at Herwijnen. In the earliest membership list available, date 25 December 1612, GIJSBERT GOERTTZEN (ROSA) who was kerkmeester (church warden), can be found with his wife, MARIA.

Struggle for independence:

When the country was invaded from the south, as it was numerous times, Gelder-land always received the first and last waves of invasion. For most of the period 1490 through 1590 the area in which Herwijnen lies was either occupied by the Spanish or under siege. During most of this time the majority of what is now the province of Gelderland was then the dukedom of Gelre, and under the rule of Karel van Gelre, duke of Gelderland. After 1514 Duke Karel emerged as the leader of the anti-Habsburg movement, it was only after Karel's death that Gelderland came under Burgundy/Habsburg rule in 1543. Habsburg wrought major changes in Gelderland. With the possible exception of the province of Groningen, Gelderland presented Charles V's regime, seated in Brussels, with the most challenge. He divided Gelderland into four quarters, each having its own assembly. In each, the nobles of the quarters and small towns (those little towns didn't play a great role) as well as the "head town" were represented, each being a "unity" (or state). These states normally met only once a year gathering in each head town. Both judicial and fiscal administrations were in considerable disarray in 1543 so Charles V, placed Gelderland under a separate Stadhouder, (head of state) thus creating the third. (Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht being under the rule of one stadhouder, and Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe, Overijssel and Lingen being under the rule of the other). The main innovation, for greater cohesion to Gelderland, was the Hof (provincial high court), designed to exercise legal and political functions. It was the main link between Brussels and the states of Gelderland and their four quarter assemblies. The Hof of Gelderland brought about more order. Central government gained a measure of leverage. Thus the direct ties the enclaves of nobles who had claimed direct lines with the Holy Roman Empire were substantially reduced, yet not wholly suppressed. By a diversity of methods titled lords defended their semi-sovereignty.

Gelderland was exceptional in having a large proportion of its land owned by nobles; in the late sixteenth century, in three of Gelderland’s quarters, there were over 300 acknowledged nobles. The Gelderland counts, formerly the chief sponsors of Burgundy-Habsburg influence, became after 1548 the foremost opponents of Habsburg rule and a little later the main local defenders of the Reformation. As the struggle continued it not only was anti-Spain it also became anti-Catholic. Gelderland however, as a whole, was still unwilling to give up to the Calvinists. This all changed by January 1582 when the States of Gelderland formally banned Catholic worship. Eventually after a hard struggle, in 1590 the Spaniards were driven back, south of the Waal, and garrisons were installed on the northern banks of that river.

At the transformation of the States General from Spanish dominates to the new Republic, Gelderland stood alone in retaining at least part of its previous (pre-1572) status . Each of its quarters acquired its own separate standing committee. Each of these consisting of six delegates, three for the knighthood and three from the towns, forming in theory an equal amount of influence, though in reality the voice of the nobles tended to dominate. There were thus three separate executives and fiscal systems in this single province, and three authorities administering confiscated Church property, thus making the three quarter assemblies the real legislative powers in the territory. In each quarter, the lesser towns were counted collectively in significance to the voice of the principal town. The Nijmegen quarter, at this time, paid 47% of the tariff owed from Gelderland to the States General.



Click here to read the continuing part of the story: Economics, and Herwijnen as a Member of the Republic.





Land Measurement Converter:


   OLD DUTCH            EUROPEAN                     AMERICAN


7 hont                          =   1 hectare = 100x100 square meters    =     2.47104 acres

6 hont = 1 morgen    =   .8571 of a hectare                                    =     2.16241 acres




40 morgen                  =   34.28 hectares                                          =     86.5 acres


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